Original Story seen on The New York Times.
Original Music composed by Dominic Smith for Smith Robinson Multimedia.
Nominated for an Emmy for outstanding Art Direction (Dominic Smith)

With “Who gets a Ventilator” our hope was to create awareness and spur action regarding the patchwork triage system in place guiding the distribution of ventilators in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The clock was ticking: COVID cases were on the rise and federal authorities were slow to give guidance regarding ventilator assignment and triage. The stakes, however, were clear: a patchwork system would leave individual healthcare systems and doctors to decide – putting an even greater burden on beleagured healthcare workers and patients.

Our goal was to graphically simplify the byzantine response system and show the need for National action and clarity where there was none. Reporter Katie Englehart wrote and recorded the narration first, and we used that for timing in the edit and design of the piece. We chose Cinema 4D and Adobe After Effects to quickly rough out the animation – with a piece this long we wanted to lock all timing before tackling the finer details of the design. We chose a more subdued, monotone color palette, recognizing the need to approach the material with a somber tone without being unnecessarily alarmist.

We chose less distinct particles, built in Red Giant’s Trapcode, to represent the patients. We wanted the viewer to recognize any of them could be you, your mother, your friend, your neighbor. At the same time, we recognized that the piece would undoubtedly be viewed by persons with severe COVID-19 infections or their family members, and we needed to treat them with respect even as we presented a hypothetical moral dilemma.

The use of abstract kaleidoscopes tediously designed using fractals that appear random, but were designed in a modular way in which we could manipulate them easily to fit the needs of the story. The idea was to evoke the patchwork nature of the system at the time of writing and the need for organization.

After animation was locked, we composed the music in a live recording over the piece to give it a more organic and thoughtful feel, we then fleshed the music out to be artfully appealing without being a distraction from the information.